Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Flea Market Etiquette

I think it's time to have the talk. Don't be nervous, we've alll had to hear it, or learn the hard way. Myself, I learned by trial and more than a few errors. Yes, I'm talking about Flea Market Etiquette.  (You mean you thought I was talking about something else?)

All right, Rule # 1: Kind Words go a long way to getting a good deal. If you are hoping for big discounts don't start by dissing the merchandise or the seller. Telling a dealer what's wrong with their item is almost guaranteed to stall negotiations. If there are flaws (and often there are, we are talking about items that are generally 40-50+ years old),  most dealers worth their salt will point them out to you. That's a good time to suggest a small discount.

               Rule #2: Even if you are one of the appraisers from Antiques Roadshow please be humble, let the dealer tell you what he/she knows about the item first, then if you have something to add, add it with a little humility. Most dealers I know are happy to get new information if it's delivered with a little finesse.

               Rule #3: If you're planning on low balling with your offer, preface it with  a little humour at least. Re-Selling is an extremely difficult way to earn money. Few if any dealers ever get their items for free and most make only marginal profits on the majority of their sales. We are there because we love the thrill of the hunt, we love connection to the past, we love the history and provenance. And, most of us at least, like the social aspect of buying and selling in a community marketplace.

              Rule #4: Please, for the love of God, don't ask how much an item is and then tell the seller what an amazing deal you just got on the same item from another dealer.  We are happy you got a good deal- we really are, but our prices are set by what we paid for our items, which may be much more than what the dealer you bought your item from paid.

              Rule #5: Consider This; A vendor spends a good portion of their time outside the fleamarket searching for items to sell. When and if they find something worth selling they then have to take it home and begin researching and preparing it, (ie, cleaning or repairing and pricing it). This all takes much much more time than you realize. Then they have to haul their goods to the market and arrange them in a nice display. If I added up all the time I spent in prep for going to market I'm pretty sure my wage would be far less than your local Barista's. Soooooooo, please consider that the next time a vendor tells you a price for something. We are always happy to negotiate but please don't make us give you our shirts. For some of us this is our only source of income and I'm not complaining, just asking a for  a little consideration and respect.

Thanks so much to all of you who support these markets and make our work that much more enjoyable. My deepest hope is that next time you visit a flea market, you have fun and hopefully go home with some great finds and a good deal or two. Cheers.


  1. I love how you wrote this. Straightforward, frank, and gentle. I wonder if I could do the same with Rules for Working with your Child's Teacher? Hmmm...

  2. Indeed, in fact I based this post on a similar set of rules I got from a teacher friend of mine when my son was first starting school. I thank her over and over again, made it soooo much easier for all parties.

  3. I've thought many times about writing a post like this, but I knew it would never turn out as polite as yours ;-)

    I'd like to add another Rule: Don't ask the price of our items in an attempt to get a "free appraisal" of your/your mother's/your grandmother's possessions. We like chatting with friendly, interested people, but we are running a business, not a museum.